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Orville Wright – Introduction

Orville Wright was born on August 19, 1871 in Dayton,

OH as the fourth child to Bishop Milton Wright and Susan
Catharine Wright. Although neither had high school degrees,
along with his brother Wilbur, Orville was credited with being
the first to successfully develop and fly a heavier-than-air
powered plane on December 17, 1903 in Kitty Hawk, North
Carolina. Orville was the pilot of the first run deemed to be a
successful flight; that initial flight lasted 12 seconds and
covered approximately 120 feet. Amid strong skepticism
from many aviation experts and the press, in 1908 Orville
and Wilbur would go on to achieve international notoriety
fame by successfully demonstrating their flying machine’s
capabilities throughout the world.

The Scene:

It is a warm early-summer day in 1928 and we are in the

yard of the Hawthorne Hill mansion that Orville has called
home since 1914. Everyone in this class is Orville Wright’s 7
year-old grand-nephew, Wilkinson “Wick” Wright, whom
“Uncle Orv” is watching for the day. Wick is playing in the
yard when Orville walks out onto the porch.
Hey Wick, Wick, come on over here, I want to talk with you
for a moment.
(Small Delay)
Wick, how old are you right now?

Response: I’m 7 years old

Seven, ah… when I was your age I was a very curious and,
some might say, mischievous little boy. I didn’t always do
particularly well in school but I constantly inquired into how
things worked and what made them tick. My parents always
encouraged your Uncle Wilbur and me to pursue all of our
intellectual interests through thorough investigation and

In fact, I remember when I was seven, my father brought

home a toy Penaud “helicopter” for Will and I to play with. It
was the first time we’d seen anything like it. Little did we
know at the time that this simple toy would be one of the
main reasons we became so enamored with achieving flight.

Now that you are seven, I wanted to share something that I

hope will inspire you, one of my diaries. I have captured
many ideas, memories, and experiences in my diaries over
the years. This particular diary contains my notes from
1903, including my account of Will and my first flight in Kitty
Hawk, North Carolina back on December 17th, 1903. Are you
interested in hearing about the details of that day?

"When we got up, a wind of between 20 and 25 miles was

blowing from the north.

I still remember the, steady wind, frigid temperatures, and

lingering rain that morning from the previous night’s storm;
it was right around 4 degrees with the wind chill. We weren’t
certain we were going to be able to fly that morning but
were running out of time before we had to return to Dayton
for Christmas and were determined to try.

We got the machine out early and put out the signal for the
men at the station. Before we were quite ready, John T.
Daniels, W. S. Dough, A. D. Etheridge, W. C. Brinkley of
Manteo, and Johnny Moore of Nags Head arrived.

Actually, Wick, why don’t you come with me? I have

something that might interest you more than just listening
to me talk.

(Go Over To Plane)

Do you recognize this? This is a replica of the 1903 Flyer we

were in that morning. I thought it might be more interesting
for you to actually experience that moment for yourself
rather than just listen to it. Hop on up onto the wing. Be
sure to grab hold of the controls. We assembled some of the
plane in Dayton before traveling to Kitty Hawk and had the
remainder of it shipped. It took us about three weeks to fully
assemble the machine once all the parts had arrived. In total
she has a wingspan of 40 feet and weighs 625 pounds.

With the help of the Kill Devil Hills Life Saving Crew, we
hauled the machine up the slope to the staging area. We ran
the engine and propellers for a few minutes to get them in
working order, and then I got on the machine at 10:35 for
the first trial. After Will’s crash a few days earlier I wasn’t
sure what to expect but the encouragement I received from
Will and the others calmed my nerves a bit. The wind was
whipping right into my face out of the North. To get her
started, I slipped the rope and the machine started traveling
down the monorail we had laid out that week. Slowly at first
but then she got going up to 7 or 8 miles on the rails in the
sand. At the fourth rail, the machine lifted from the track.

(Dramatic 12 second delay)

A sudden dart ended the flight; however, we were finally

successful. 12 seconds and 120 feet later, Will and I were
the first to build a working flying machine. I will admit,
though, that first one was certainly not the smoothest flight
I have ever taken, as the center balance of the controls
made the machine difficult to maneuver. The machine
pitched up and down the full time but landed intact, with
only a damaged skid.

(Walk out from behind plane)

We ran three more trials that morning, all with greater

success. During the final trial Will was able to maintain his
altitude and speed for 59 seconds and traveled 852 feet. It
was a glorious day for me and Will and a testament to
challenging what is accepted as impossible. For, if we all
worked on the assumption that what is accepted as true is
really true, there would be little hope of advance.

American Experience, The Wright Stuff. Retrieved on August 2nd, 2009


Crouch, Tom D., The Bishop's Boys: A Life of Wilbur and Orville Wright,
New York: Norton, 1989.

Eyewitness To History, The Wright Brothers - First Flight, 1903.

Retrieved on August 2nd, 2009 from

Freedman, Russell, The Wright Brothers: How They Invented the

Airplane, New York: Holiday House, 1991.

Howard, Fred, Wilbur and Orville: A Biography of the Wright Brothers,

New York: Knopf, 1987.

Kirk, Stephen, First in Flight: The Wright Brothers in North Carolina,

Winston-Salem, North Carolina: J.F. Blair, 1995.

Library of Congress, Wright Photo 3G7. Retrieved on August 9th, 2009


NASA, Reliving The Wright Way – A Biography of Orville Wright.

Retrieved on August 3rd, 2009 from

Parramore, Thomas, Triumph at Kitty Hawk: The Wright Brothers and

Powered Flight, Raleigh: Division of Archives and History, North
Carolina Dept. of Cultural Resources, 1995.

Smithsonian Education, Orville Wright’s Diary. Retrieved on July 24th,

2009 from
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